Mike Smith reports on a cruel ending for the Firsts as promotion hopefuls LSH taken right to the sixth minute of time added-on.
Southport welcomed Liverpool St Helens to Waterloo Road last Saturday, and with the visitors in second place in the league and looking for promotion, Southport knew they were in for a battle.
However, the home side took the lead from the off. Liverpool St Helens fielded the kick-off, and set out their game plan, with the burly pack driving forwards. However, Southport stole the ball, and shipped the ball out to Josh Critchley, who had far too much pace for any of the Liverpool St Helen's defence to handle, as he rushed over the try line for a well taken score. And Southport added to the tally a short while later with an excellent try that started after a Charlie Attis clearance kick was well chased by Joe Bradford, bundling the Liverpool St Helens defender into touch, and giving Southport a put in at the lineout on the halfway line. Calum Monaghan found Kristian Griffiths, and good ball allowed Dan Whalen to release his backs. With crisp hands, Southport quickly shift the ball to Tom Hill, and the winger demonstrated his skill in finishing, outpacing the defence, before scoring under the posts.
Liverpool St Helens responded, and put together several phases of play, using their forward power to keep play tight. The Southport pack stood firm, and the visitors were unable to breach their opposition forwards. However, the pressure eventually told, and Liverpool St Helens found space out on the right wing to score in the corner. Southport immediately responded from the restart, with an excellent Sam Cross take to regain possession, and a Joe Mawdsley kick to the corner to maintain pressure. But, despite having chances, unforced errors ultimately prevented the home side from adding to their try tally. Southport did add to their score, however, courtesy of an Attis penalty in front of the posts following a high tackle, and were well worth their lead at the break. Half-time: Southport 15 Liverpool St Helens 5.
The second half started like the first, with an early score, however this time it went to the visitors. Liverpool St Helens again attacked with their pack, and just as the move looked to have broken down, a chip to the corner invited winger Josh Lynch to chase, and he outstripped the defence to score in the corner, well converted from the touchline. Now Liverpool St Helens had the heads up, and put together several phases of attacking play in the Southport 22. Despite being awarded kickable penalties, the visitors chose to kick to the corner, however failed to win their own lineout, allowing Southport to clear their lines. This allowed the home side to set up their own period of pressure, and numerous phases of play took Southport up to the visitors 5m line where again the home side were unable to finish off, and left empty-handed. Back came Liverpool St Helens, and another penalty kick at goal to level the scores was declined, with the visitors opting again to pressurise the try line. However, again Southport's pack stole the ball at the lineout, and then put together an excellent passage of play, with Critchley showing fleet of foot and finding gaps in the Liverpool St Helen's defence, and Griffiths putting in a huge shift from the second row, allowing Southport to set up great field position, before Critchley crossed the try line, only to be held up by the defence. From the resulting scrum, Southport continued to attack, with Rob White going close, before Calum Monaghan picked from the back and dove over, giving Southport a 10-point lead with less than 10 minutes left.
But, Liverpool St Helens were not going to lie down, and immediately launched another attack, sucking in Southport’s pack in defence, before releasing Alex McClurg, whose dancing feet saw him score an excellent solo effort, and set up a grandstand finish. And, with the teams playing time added on, despite ‘Port’s defensive efforts, Liverpool St Helens managed to batter away, and eventually the onslaught allowed the visitors to find a gap for their forwards to crash over the line, and steal victory at the last. So, despite a valiant effort, and taking the high-flying visitors all the way, it was a dejected home side as the final whistle blew at Waterloo Road. However, Southport can reflect on some excellent passages of play, classy tries, a determined defence and a huge team-spirited effort, and will look to build on this performance in the coming weeks and months. Final score: Southport 22 Liverpool St Helens 26.